State program that certifies organic farms, ranches, other food/ag businesses turns 25


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Katie Goetz
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New Mexico’s Organic Program celebrates anniversary
while prepping for state’s biggest agricultural conference

(ALBUQUERQUE) – This year marks the 25th anniversary of the state program that inspects and certifies farms, ranches, and other New Mexico businesses that want to label their food and agricultural products as organic.

In 1991, the New Mexico Legislature created the Organic Commodity Commission.  It became known as the Organic Program in 2011 when the legislature relocated the program to NMDA.  The Organic Program offers nationally accredited organic certification for farmers, ranchers, and food processors throughout New Mexico, as well as application and marketing assistance.

“Organic agriculture is doing well in New Mexico, with roughly 150 certified-organic farms, ranches, and other food and agricultural businesses that are certified,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said.  “Each year, organic ag production and food processing in the state brings in about $50 million.”

If recent years are any guide, approximately 800 people from the state’s organic community will soon gather for what’s become the best-attended agricultural conference in the state.  The 2016 New Mexico Organic Farming Conference happens Friday and Saturday, February 19 and 20, at the Marriott Albuquerque Pyramid North.

“As always, the conference aims to give farmers and ranchers an opportunity to connect with each other, to share the lessons they’ve learned, and to draw on the latest research in organic agriculture,” said Joanie Quinn, organic commodity advisor for NMDA’s Organic Program, one of three entities that coordinate and host the conference.

The two-day event features 36 workshop sessions, each 90 minutes long, spread out over six different time slots.   Session topics include native food crops, rainwater harvesting, using livestock to build soil, organic farming on 100+ acres, seed saving, aquaponics, and what young farmers need to know.  As always, there will be a session to help people new to the organic field understand how to get certified.

Nearly 50 exhibitors will have booths featuring information about their agricultural, educational, and health services.  Others will have items for sale, including books; irrigation and greenhouse supplies; organic feeds, seeds, and soil amendments; personal care products; and more.

NMDA’s Organic Program staff work with employees from New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service and the nonprofit Farm to Table to organize the annual conference.  Special thanks to the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau (NMF&LB) Foundation for its administrative support vital to the success of the conference.